Caffeine isn’t just for your coffee: it can boost solar panels too

Pixabay

Pixabay

Coffee is what keeps New York running in the morning, but it could also lead to changes in the energy industry. 

In a recent study by the University of California, Los Angeles and scientists at Solargiga Energy, a Chinese manufacturing enterprise for photovoltaic products, caffeine could be a viable replacement for materials in solar cells. 

Solar cells are used to convert light energy to electricity and are found in great numbers in solar panels. 

In the scientific world, solar panels haven’t reached their peak performance potential yet because they usually do not absorb all of the solar energy that the sun provides. 

As a result, the solar panel industry is constantly working on improving their electricity efficiency. To help increase light absorption, perovskite solar cells use a perovskite layer, which helps in absorbing more light and increasing the efficiency of solar panels.  

The perovskite layer over the years has been changed and manipulated to make it more stable and efficient but remains a key malleable component in solar cells. 

Researchers confessed joking about coffee as a resource for a perovskite layer. It was only after looking into the topic that they found caffeine to be very similar to materials in the perovskite. 

Scientists added caffeine to a solar panel made up of 40 solar cells  and discovered a great “molecular bond” between the perovskite and caffeine. 

When running numbers, the solar panel showed an increase from 17 percent light absorption to 19.8 percent light absorption. 

Solar cells with caffeine bonds were tested in comparison to normal solar cells in a stability test.  The stability test consisted of both types of solar cells being placed inside a solution that best simulates the environment they will be in, which was at a body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. 

After the stability test, the caffeine solar cells maintained 86 percent of their original state, while the controlled solar cell group only maintained 60 percent. This is because the caffeine increased the panel’s heat resistance and thermal efficiency. 

The research team pointed out that the application of caffeine is only useful on perovskite solar panels as other types of solar panels vary differently. Some solar panels can reach 22 percent light absorption, which is higher than perovskite solar panels, but these are more prone to warping via heat and time. 

Perovskite panels are easier to produce and more likely to suit customers’ preferences than silicon panels. Caffeine could be a leading cause in making solar panels become much cheaper. Any improvement in the solar energy field is crucial in the development of commercial applications. 

The solar energy market has grown significantly from research like this. Solar energy panels typically last 25 years and look appealing to consumers who pay monthly electric bills, and prefer a single purchase.

Solar energy is not the only source of renewable energy. Renewable energy sources like wind turbines and wave energy converters are growing more common. The main issue with most energy resources is the expensive upfront cost of energy plants. Most innovative renewable energy sources are restrained by costs but have shown promise. 

Thirty-one percent of homes in Iowa are powered by wind turbines, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

In wind turbines, wind energy from the air induces a mechanical reaction that results in electrical energy. Communities have shown concern for wildlife as birds are likely to be struck down by one of the propellers in wind turbines. 

It’s a wonder that an organic material like caffeine can fit into a complex system like solar panels and help benefit scientific research. 

It is important to consider that a joke, like coffee in solar panels, can drastically evolve into something worthwhile and beneficial.